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Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 27 March 2012

Khalil Edwards , right, and his sister, Kijana Winchester, appear in a Basic Rights Oregon video called 'Our Families: LGBT African American Stories,' part of a series documenting the gay experience in families of color.

Photo courtesy Basic Rights Oregon


Democrats and marriage equality advocates are in an uproar over newly unsealed documents showing an anti-gay organization's strategy to discredit the president – and pit Black and Latino leaders against gay voters.

The document, a 2008-09 report to the group's Board of Directors, squarely places the discrediting and electoral defeat of President Obama in 2012 as a priority, including a section called, "Sideswiping Obama," to which the group appears to be suggesting a $1 million financial commitment.

The NOM is currently suing the Maine Ethics Commission and its chair, Walter McKee, over disclosure requirements under Maine's election laws; NOM has lost repeated attempts in court to keep secret its donor list, and the documents were released as part of the court records in that case, which the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take up since 2010.

The document, which is stamped throughout with the word "CONFIDENTIAL," lists the defeat of Proposition 8 in California as a watershed accomplishment achieved through identifying Black and Latino community leaders, grooming them as spokespeople against gay marriage, "fanning the hostility," then waiting for the gay community to attack the communities of color – literally dividing and conquering communities to win their political goal.

The section about how to organize within the Black community, entitled "Not a Civil Rights Project," says in part: "Consider pushing a marriage amendment in Washington, D.C.; find attractive young Black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally."

Further in this section, the document says, "We also need to accomplish a sophisticated cultural objective: Interrupt the attempt to equate gay with Black, and sexual orientation with race."

The Skanner News spoke about the new development with Khalil Edwards, co-founder of the first Black chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and a staff member of Basic Rights Oregon.


Members of the Black chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- one of only two such groups in the nation, at Queer Pride 2011. Photo courtesy Basic Rights Oregon

The Skanner News: What has happened with this leaked document?

Khalil Edwards: The Human Rights Campaign just publicized a document that came from NOM, the National Organization for Marriage. It's basically their national strategy for winning the marriage battle – it's an internal document created in late 2009 outlining their total strategy for defeating marriage equality around the country and their overall anti-LGBT movement strategy.


TSN: What did the document say? Why is it important?

KE: So the document really outlined in detail the way that they planned to drive wedges within different communities around the country. And in their plan it was exposed that they detailed ways in which they want to turn Blacks and Latinos against gays, against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered (LGBT) folks in order to win the traditional marriage fight and to defeat marriage equality. Specifically they said, actual quotes from the document say the strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and Blacks – it actually says that in the document – "two key Democratic constituencies." It says, "Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots."

TSN: Do you think that there was a strategy like this around the California marriage law that became a famous standoff – I mean the media portrayed it as African American people against gay marriage in California. Do you think something like this happened there too?

KE: Yes this is definitely what happened with Proposition 8, it's happened here in Oregon before and this is a wedge issue – a key strategy that is used time and time again, and actually is used to some success, as we've seen in different ways, by the National Organization for Marriage. It really makes the assumption that you can't be Black and gay, that there are no queer people of color in our communities. And this wedge issue – that's exactly what it is, and exactly what they know it's being used to do, is to divide people on these key issues.

TSN: Why is this wrong and what is the most important thing for people to know about it?

KE: It's wrong on a few different levels. It makes the assumption, as I said, that there are no queer people of color, so they're dividing communities, dividing Blacks and Latinos against gay people – well how can you divide Blacks and Latinos against gay people when Blacks and Latinos ARE gay people? It's as if there are no queer people of color in our communities and we know that's not true. It invisible-izes folks that share that identity that are part of those communities -- that are queer people of color that are Black and LGBT, that are Latino and LGBT, that are Asian and Pacific Islander and LBGT, and all the other queer people of color that we have in our community.

And also it forces people to sometimes choose between their identities – so when they create these wedges, do I support what I hear this scapegoated Black spokesperson saying is where my heart and head should be, or do I listen to what the LGBT folks are saying in support of this issue that's important to me? It makes people choose between their different identities.

TSN: So within your community of activists and advocates are doing, how can people support your work?

KE: You can contact Basic Rights Oregon at www.basicrights.org, you can call us at 503-222-6151 and get involved. We have been working on education about the freedom to marry within communities throughout Oregon, offering that support and changing hearts and minds every day about these issues. Also we're working in communities of color with queer people of color -- and also straight people of color -- to really highlight the stories and experiences and trials and triumphs of queer people of color in our communities, who are so often invisible-ized. Within our Racial Justice program we really work hard to raise up those folks and raise up those stories and experiences and build awareness amongst straight people that we all are part of all our communities.

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